Antrim sunflower crop becomes regional attraction
When Portglenone farmer Damien McAllister was sowing his pollinator strip as part of an environmental scheme, he did not think that it would be as big of an attraction as it has become today.
Damien and Eamon McAllister are cattle and sheep farmers from outside Portglenone, Co. Antrim, and are involved in the Environmental Farming Scheme (EFS).
As part of the scheme, Damien opted to sow a 10m annual wildflower pollinator margin.
Damien explained to AgriLand: “There was about an acre planted in all. When the strip was sown it left a 2ac square in the middle, so we decided to sow the whole field in sunflowers.”
Damien’s plan for the sunflowers is to leave them available in the field for the birds to eat over the course of the winter.
According to Damien, the purpose of the strip in the EFS is to encourage pollinator species of insects such as bees and butterflies to flourish on the farm.
He added that the local beekeeper association told him there are bees travelling up to three miles to get to the crop.
“Every farm should have a strip,” remarked Damien.
If you saw the amount of wildlife in this field, its just unreal. Who would have thought people would come to see a few sunflowers.
“I didn’t plan to open it to the public until people started coming to see it; there’s three full-time staff dealing with the manic of it,” he added.
Damien opened the field for a weekend as a wildflower walk – the sunflowers were only beginning to bloom out at that stage, he added.
“I closed it last Sunday night and then Monday morning there were people lined up again to see it.”
Damien concluded by adding that the hot summer this year would have really helped the growth of the sunflowers.
Damien works with DLF Seeds and is based in the northern region of the country. An international supplier of grass seed and other crops, DLF has its headquarters in Roskilde, Denmark.